- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

NEW YORK

Defending champ wins hot dog contest

NEW YORK — When it comes to eating hot dogs, “the Tsunami” still blows everybody away.

For the fourth straight year, Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano, Japan, chewed up the competition at the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating competition yesterday.

Mr. Kobayashi gulped down 53 wieners in 12 minutes and shattered his 2002 world record by three dogs. The closest competitor was Nobuyuki Shirota, 25, of Tokyo, who couldn’t cut the mustard, with 38 dogs.

Meanwhile, 105-pound Sonya “the Black Widow” Thomas, 36, of Alexandria, Va., could relish two new records: She wolfed down more hot dogs — 32 — than any other woman and any other American in the contest’s history.

PENNSYLVANIA

Karzai accepts 2004 Liberty Medal

PHILADELPHIA — Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed leader of Afghanistan who took over after the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, accepted the annual Philadelphia Liberty Medal yesterday at a ceremony at Independence Hall.

Mr. Karzai was appointed to lead his country after the U.S.-led invasion aimed at evicting the Taliban and tracking down Osama bin Laden.

Afghans “have sacrificed terribly to obtain freedom. In the resistance against the Soviet occupation and the fight against terrorism and extremism, we lost nearly 2 million of our people,” said Mr. Karzai, who thanked the American people for helping Afghanistan gain independence.

The medal’s $100,000 prize will go to support Afghan orphans, he said.

ALASKA

Villages ask help to stem erosion

ANCHORAGE — Leaders in some of Alaska’s rural villages are appealing for aid because erosion is threatening to destroy their homes. At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, scientists and tribal leaders described how villages handle the flooding and erosion that result from Arctic climate change.

High water or surf regularly damages 183 of 213 Alaska Native villages, according to a 2003 study by the General Accounting Office.

ARKANSAS

Same-sex ‘marriage’ may go on ballot

LITTLE ROCK — Supporters of a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that would ban homosexual “marriages” and civil unions submitted signed petitions to get the measure before voters in November.

The Arkansas Marriage Amendment Committee said it collected 200,693 signatures. Supporters need at least 80,570 signatures of registered voters to get it on the Nov. 2 ballot.

CALIFORNIA

Petitioners want cross on county seal

LOS ANGELES — A petition drive began this weekend aimed at keeping the cross in the official seal of Los Angeles County.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said 250,000 signatures would be needed to put a measure on the November ballot that would overturn the Board of Supervisors earlier decision to remove the cross under threat of a lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union had demanded the cross be taken out because it represented an improper state endorsement of a religion.

GEORGIA

Muslim claims he was fired for religion

AMERICUS — A former Georgia Southwestern State University professor is suing the school because he says he was terminated for being Muslim.

Mohammed Saheb said he was also forced to deal with derogatory comments about Iranians and Muslims while working at the university. A court date isn’t expected for about a year.

HAWAII

Tugboat operators end 4-day strike

HONOLULU — Striking tugboat workers approved a contract yesterday with the company responsible for much of Hawaii’s interisland barge traffic, ending a four-day walkout.

The Inlandboatman’s Union of the Pacific ratified the agreement with Young Brothers Ltd.-Hawaiian Tug & Barge, said Jonathan Lono Kane, the union’s regional director.

Workers will now accrue six hours off for every day worked, in addition to receiving improved medical benefits and pension plans. The contract doesn’t include a salary increase, he said.

Under the previous contract, the workers got four hours off for each day worked, Mr. Kane said.

The 60 tug operators walked off the job Thursday.

KANSAS

Couple charged in poison attempt

EDWARDSVILLE — A couple has been accused of trying to kill the mayor of a Kansas City suburb and her husband with poisoned soda and cupcakes sent through the mail.

Donna Ozuna-Trout, 47, and Ralph Trout, 57, were charged last week with attempted first-degree murder.

They’re accused of mailing poisoned food to the home of their neighbors, Mayor Stephanie Eickhoff and James Eickhoff, a lieutenant in the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office.

The two families have been embroiled in an ongoing feud for several years, including lawsuits filed by each, the mayor said.

KENTUCKY

Paper apologizes for civil rights coverage

LEXINGTON — The Lexington Herald-Leader featured a prominent clarification on its front page yesterday, apologizing for the newspaper’s failures in covering the 1960s civil rights movement.

The notice accompanied a series of stories titled “Front-page news, back-page coverage” and numerous black-and-white pictures taken by an independent photographer.

“It has come to the editor’s attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement,” the clarification read in yesterday’s editions. “We regret the omission.”

The report comes as the nation observes the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

LOUISIANA

Giraffe, ostrich drown in sinkhole at zoo

MONROE — A giraffe and an ostrich drowned in a 15-foot sinkhole that developed after a water main burst in their shared zoo exhibit, officials said.

The animals at Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in northern Louisiana died sometime Friday night or Saturday morning in the African veldt exhibit, officials said.

Zoo officials buried them there Saturday.

Zoo veterinarian Tyler Thomas said he believed the 17-foot, 3,000-pound giraffe was probably getting a drink, then tumbled headfirst into the sinkhole when it collapsed under his weight.

The ostrich was likely standing beside the giraffe, he said.

MICHIGAN

Beaver causes power outage

TRAVERSE CITY — Residents in northeastern Michigan have something to chew on now that the source of an outage in their long-distance phone service has been discovered.

A beaver is to blame, according to a spokesman for Verizon Communications.

The outage began shortly after 8 a.m. on Thursday and lasted about six hours. About 62,000 customers were affected. The outage including long-distance, Internet and cellular phone services.

It took crews a while to locate the source of the problem because the damaged fiber-optic cable was stretched across a wetland area near the headwaters of the Muskegon River, said spokesman John VanWyck.

MISSISSIPPI

Iraq escapee headlines July 4 celebration

MACON — More than 300 people, many waving U.S. flags, showed up Saturday for a Fourth of July parade featuring Thomas Hamill, the truck driver who escaped his Iraqi captors.

A banner draped across the truck in which Mr. Hamill rode read, “Welcome Home Tommy.”

“I had no thought what the next day would bring, only that God was there,” Mr. Hamill said in a short speech afterward. “I had no control of the situation. I just took 23 days one day at a time.”

Mr. Hamill, 44, was driving a fuel truck in Iraq for a Halliburton subsidiary when his convoy was ambushed April 9. He was abducted and imprisoned in a farmhouse 50 miles north of Baghdad until he escaped on May 2.

He declined a homecoming parade.

MONTANA

Schools, agencies face gas rate jump

HELENA — A new natural-gas contract that starts this month means more than six dozen state agencies, school districts and communities are facing an 89 percent increase in heating costs this fiscal year.

Montana State University, the largest gas user in the state’s Energy Procurement Program, is expected to pay almost $1 million more.

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